i 51ddca29df3edad1

The Nice Bloke

by

Catherine Cookson

CATHERINE COOK SON BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE MALL EN SERIES AND MANY

OTHER COMPELLING NOVELS.

MORE THAN 22,000.

000 COPIES OF HER BOOKS

SOLD

IN CORGI.

UK.

1. New Zealand. $5. 50 Catherine Cookson was born in East Jarrow and the place of her birth provides the background she so vividly creates in many of her novels.

Although acclaimed as a regional writer--her novel THE ROUND TOWER won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968--her readership spreads throughout the world. Her work has been translated into twelve languages and Corgi alone has over 20,000,000 copies of her novels in print, including those written under the name of Catherine Marchant.

Mrs. Cookson was born the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. Catherine began work in service but eventually moved South to Hastings where she met and married a local grammar school master. At the age of forty she began writing with great success about the lives of the working class people of the North-East with whom she had grown up, including her intriguing autobiography, OUR KATE. More recently THE CINDER PATH has established her position as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists.

Mrs. Cookson now lives in Northumberland, overlooking the Tyne.

KATIE MULHOLLAND KATE HANNIGAN THE ROUND TOWER FEN WICK HOUSES THE

FIFTEEN STREETS MAGGIE ROWAN THE LONG CORRIDOR THE UNBAITED TRAP

COLOUR BLIND THE MENAGERIE THE BLIND MILLER FANNY McBRIDE THE GLASS

VIRGIN ROONEY

THE INVITATION THE DWELLING PLACE FEATHERS IN THE FIRE OUR KATE PURE

AS THE LILY THE INVISIBLE CORD THE GAMBLING MAN THE TIDE OF LIFE THE

GIRL

THE CINDER PATH THE MAN WHO CRIED TELLY TROTTER

The "Mary Ann' series A GRAND MAN

THE LORD AND MARY ANN THE DEVIL AND MARY ANN LOVE AND MARY ANN LIFE

AND MARY ANN MARRIAGE AND MARY ANN MARY ANN'S ANGELS MARY ANN AND

BILL

The "Mallen' series THE MALL EN STREAK THE MALL EN GIRL THE MALL EN

LITTER

By Catherine Cookson as Catherine Marchant

HOUSE OF MEN

THE FEN TIGER

HERITAGE OF POLLY

MISS MARTHA MARY CRAWFORD

THE IRON FACADE

THE SLOW AWAKENING

and published by Corgi Books

Catherine Cookson

CORGS BOOKS

A DIVISION OF TRANS WORLD PUBLISHERS LTD

THE NICE BLOKE A CORGI BOOK 0 552'll365 4

Originally published in Great Britain by Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.

PRINTING mS TORY Macdonald edition published 1969 Corgi edition published 1972 Corgi edition reprinted 1973 (twice) Corgi edition reprinted 1974 Corgi edition reprinted 1975 Corgi edition reprinted 1976 Corgi edition reprinted 1977 Corgi edition reprinted 1978 (twice) Corgi edition reissued 1979 Corgi edition reprinted 1980 Corgi edition reprinted

Copyright Catherine Cookson, 1969

Conditions of Sale 1: This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on.

the subsequent purchaser.

2: This book is sold subject to the Standard Conditions of Sale of Net Books and may not be re-sold in the U.

K.

below the net price fixed by the publishers for the book.

This book is set in Granjon 10/11 pt.

Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers, Ltd. " Century House, 61-63 Uxbridge Road, Baling, London W5 5SA.

Made and printed in the United States of America by Arcata Graphics, Buffalo, New York.

For Mr.

R.

G.

Wilson Another, nice bloke

CONTENTS

BOOK ONB

Harry Blenheim Page ii book two Robbie Dunn Page 141

BOOK THREE

The Outcome Page 213 Dig in the soil of a quiet man and you unearth the savage.

BOOK ONE
HARRY BLENHEIM

He sat encased in frozen terror aware of people passing him and the looks they cast on him as they went into the Court. The terror had been rising in him since he awoke at four o'clock this morning. It had brought him out in sweats, hot and blush- making like a woman in the menopause; it had 'dropped him into baths of cold perspiration where his teeth chattered and he had to grip the bed head to steady himself.

But now all his fear was at a standstill; it had frozen during this waiting period and he was grateful even for this respite because, gathering force as it had done since he entered the Court-house, he knew that if it rose just a little further he would go berserk.

His eyes unblinking, he stared before him and again asked himself why he was here, how had it come about? How had it happened to him, Harry Blenheim? He was a nice man, was Harry Blenheim. He didn't have to be big-headed to know that was the general opinion of him. It had been his own opinion up till a few months ago, at which time he had been full of selfrespect.

When he looked in the mirror he liked what he saw; not exactly a good-looking fellow, but, as his wife had once said in her far back loving, laughing days, his was a face full of character, with the kindest brown eyes God ever made. And then there was his voice, deep, what they called musical. And it was musical, because he could sing.

It was the singing that had made him a successful business man. It was odd when you came to think about it, but it was true. They had taken him out of the Sunday school and put him in the choir because of his voice, and in the choir he had chummed up with Tony Rippon, and that was something, because the Rippons were When his voice broke, it broke well and he became a tenor. It was after he had sung solo with the church choir on the television that Esther Rippon had singled him out.

He hadn't taken to her very much at rst and nothing might have come of it, but Tony died and she seemed inconsolable.

Mr. and Mrs. Rippon hadn't been elated when he and Esther became engaged. He was working then as a junior clerk in the Rates Department and his prospects, although secure, were very, very dull. And that was how Mr. Rippon saw them too, and, as he said, something would have to be done. And he did something; he got him set on in the firm of Peamarsh, of which he ^ was then a junior director. < On the face of it Peamarsh's was a small wholesale chemists firm, but once Harry entered it he realised it had a finger in every pie in Fellburn. There were five directors, and they were all out to monopolise, most of all their youngest director, Mr. Rippon.

Harry had never really liked Mr. Rippon, even before he married his daughter. As for Mrs. Rippon, he wholeheartedly:

disliked her. He saw her as a psalm-singing, sanctimonious prig, and he only hoped Esther wouldn't take after her. Esther didn't; at least not altogether. '" Esther was nineteen and he was twenty when they were married and life, even with its pinpricks in the form of Mr.

Rippon, promised good. And for sixteen years it kept its promise, more or less, until hell had opened and swallowed him. But hell had been a private hell. The public had only got wind of it a month ago when he had tried to kill his father- in-law. He hadn't quite succeeded. He wished he had. Knowing what the consequences would be, he still wished he had.

He blinked once and looked around the wide corridor as ii in search of a friendly face. Even at this moment he would havq been glad to see Esther, but Esther was the last person he waj likely to see. Nor would he be likely to see his sons, John anq Terry. Then there was Gail .

Oh I Oh, Gail. | He hadn't seen his daughter for weeks. Esther had packer her off somewhere, and she said that if it lay with her he would| never clap eyes on Gail again.

KdLJLl^h oh no, not her father, that dirty old licentious beast . But that was exactly what Esther had called him, himself, wasn't it? Not a dirty old licentious beast, just a dirty licentious beast. Well, he wouldn't have that. He told her he wouldn't have that; what he had done didn't deserve that title. He had made a mistake as many a man before him. He had been weak, and he had paid for his weakness. He was paying for his weakness at this moment as he waited for his name to be called to be brought to justice for what, as one paper stated, was the worst case of its kind Fellburn had ever known.

"It shouldn't be long now."

He looked at his solicitor who had just moved away from the barrister.

His face wasn't friendly. A month ago he had called him Peter and he had been Harry to him. They were both members of the Round Table; they played golf together, and it was they who saw to the organising, each Christmas, of some stunt for bringing in money for parcels for the old folks. They had been buddies, Peter Thompson and he, yet when the balloon went up Peter had been reluctant to have anything to do with the case.

Nor had he any hope of leniency from the judge. Callow was one of the old school. He wasn't nicknamed Horsewhip Callow for nothing. At a talk he had given to the Round Table dinner he had indicated that a great deal of crime was due to people moving out of their class.

"And don't let us forget it," he had said; 'there is as much class distinction today as there ever was, and rightly so. " As one member had remarked later, old Callow was a ghetto-minded old sod, and if he had his way no one would be let out of his district.

Harry knew that he himself had been let out of his district so to speak. Let out from the bottom end of the town and into the top end, and that people were remembering. It didn't do, you see; leopards didn't change their spots. And it wasn't only the people from the top end who were remembering, those from the bottom end were, tod. That's what you got for being an upstart and trying to climb; they said, "But it wasn't really his fault, it was his grannie's. Mary O'Toole was a pusher. She had pushed him into the choir and then into the rate office,

iioc cry nis luck. "

But there were two from Bog's End who didn't think like this: Janet Dunn and her son, Robbie. And, as if his thoughts had conjured them up out of the air, be saw them standing before him. They said nothing, neither of them, they just stared at him. And he returned their stare, his gratitude for their presence making him speechless. When young Robbie put his hand out and touched his shoulder he wanted to grab it and hold it, as he would have held John's or Terry's had they been there with him at this moment, but he resisted the impulse and just continued to stare gratefully at Janet as her eyes asked, "How did this happen to you, how?" And as if she had spoken aloud he shook his head slowly. He didn't know, he didn't know, it was just one of those things that started at an office party.

ONE

It was snowing heavily when he reached home. At the top of the drive the house greeted him with lights in all the downstairs windows. He could see the ^Christmas tree in the drawing- room. It was' bare yet;

they would start decorating it tomorrow.

The snow excited him. He hoped it would lie over Christmas; it was some years since they had had a real white Christmas. He went to the boot and took out a largish parcel and wondered if he would get it into the house without Gail spotting him.

When he opened the front door he was met by warmth and the sound of voices coming from different directions, Janet's from the kitchen raised in protest against Terry--he must be pinching something again--John's voice from somewhere in the cellar, yelling, "Mother!

Mother! I can't find them. What did you say they were in? " Then Esther coming from the morning-room and looking towards him, and lifting her hand in greeting before she shouted down to the floor, "

The old green box in the corner, the right hand side of the boiler.

"

He was about to slip into the cloakroom and deposit the parcel until he could take it upstairs when a cry from the landing brought his gaze upwards, and there stood Gail. She stood poised for a moment; then, taking the stairs two at a time, she was in front of him before he could escape.

"Hold on! Hold on I You'll have me over, you big horse."

As she reached up and kissed him she cried, "It's snowing, it's snowing and it's going to lie."

"All right, all right. It's snowing and it's going to lie. Let me get my things off."

"What's that?" she was whispering.

"Coo. It's a big parcel. Who's it for? Me?" She dug her finger between her small i7

head quickly down to her he whispered, "Your mother."

"Oh, what is it?"

"I'm not telling you; you'll give the show away."

"Honest, I won't, I won't."

"It's a set of frying pans."

"Oh, Dad I' She pushed him, and he drew her to the side of the curtain that bordered the passage leading to the loggia and, his voice low, he said, " Do you think you could get it up into the attic without her seeing? "

"Leave it to me," she said.

"You do an evasive tactic and leave it to me."

He left it to her to see that she hid her own Christmas box. He could imagine her reactions on Christmas morning when she saw the fitted dressing case that she had admtred in Pomphreys months ago. Esther had been against him getting it. She considered it too sophisticated for a girl of fifteen, but he considered that Gail needed something sophisticated to help her over her present stage of plumpness. His daughter couldn't as yet see her plumpness as a prelude to beauty, but he could. He knew that in two or three years' time she'd be breath-taking. In a strange way she had inherited all the good points from Esther and himself; Esther's height, her pale complexion, his own brown eyes and his hair, but whereas his hair was a sandy nondescript colour, hers, though of the same thick strong texture, was a tawny shade.

If he had been asked what made life worth living for him he would have answered airily, "Oh, a number of things'; his wife, his home, his family. But deep in his being, where no question penetrated, the truth lay, and the truth was that it was his daughter and she alone that answered that question.

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